Black carbon measurements in the boundary layer over western and northern Europe
1Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
2Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Oberpfaffenhofen, Weßling, Germany
3Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
4Department of Applied Environmental Science, Atmospheric Science Unit, Stockholm University, Sweden
5National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Abstract. Europe is a densely populated region that is a significant global source of black carbon (BC) aerosol, but there is a lack of information regarding the physical properties and spatial/vertical distribution of BC in the region. We present the first aircraft observations of sub-micron BC aerosol concentrations and physical properties measured by a single particle soot photometer (SP2) in the lower troposphere over Europe. The observations spanned a region roughly bounded by 50° to 60° N and from 15° W to 30° E. The measurements, made between April and September 2008, showed that average BC mass concentrations ranged from about 300 ng m−3 near urban areas to approximately 50 ng m−3 in remote continental regions, lower than previous surface-based measurements. BC represented between 0.5 and 3% of the sub-micron aerosol mass. Black carbon mass size distributions were log-normally distributed and peaked at approximately 180 nm, but shifted to smaller diameters (~160 nm) near source regions. Black carbon was correlated with carbon monoxide (CO) but had different ratios to CO depending on location and air mass. Light absorption coefficients were measured by particle soot absorption photometers on two separate aircraft and showed similar geographic patterns to BC mass measured by the SP2, but differed by at least a factor of two compared to each other. We summarize the BC and light absorption measurements as a function of longitude and air mass age and also provide profiles of BC mass concentrations and size distribution statistics. Our results will help evaluate model-predicted regional BC concentrations and properties and determine regional and global climate impacts from BC due to atmospheric heating and surface dimming.